Directed by: Roger Donaldson
Starring: Jason Statham, Saffron Burrows, Richard Lintern
Parental Notes: This is not a kids movie (plenty of nudity/sensuality and a bit of violence and kinkiness for good measure) though teens may enjoy it.
Heist movies are traditionally full of excitement, plot twists, and beautiful women, and “The Bank Job” has all of those in spades — and many of the women are topless 70s-style beauties to boot. It also has the added cache of being based on a true story.
In 1971, a group of small-time, rather unprofessional thieves broke into Lloyd’s Bank and stole an amount in excess of 500,000 British Pounds (worth over $5 million today) from the safe deposit boxes in its vault. It would have been an ordinary heist, save for one thing: a ham radio operator had eavesdropped on the thieves’ walkie-talkie conversation with their lookouts and alerted the police, who were too incompetent to track down which bank was being robbed. The papers, radio, and television news were full of the story — but a few days after the robbery, all coverage stopped, and the whole matter was rapidly hushed up.
Once it was revealed the government was involved in the hushing (they sent out a D-Notice on the story, which strongly encouraged all media outlets to stop talking about it), people got curious. If it was just a regular bank robbery, why hush it up? We’re offered one theory in “The Bank Job.” Based on the events as known to the public and on information from an anonymous “Deep Throat” style source, it provides a strange blend of fact and fiction.
Unfortunately, it also tries to add in a little too much of everything else. There are more subplots and themes here than you can shake a stick at, and they don’t blend together very smoothly. The criminals are genially incompetent but somehow able to pull off a complex double-cross in order to get away scott free. Shady car dealer Terry Leather (Jason Statham, “War”) is supposed to have a bit of a thing with ex-model double-dealer Martine (Saffron Burrows, “The Guitar”), the lovely lady who comes to him with the robbery scheme, but also be a devoted husband and father of two. The film has a light touch with coy sex scenes and elegantly half-naked women, but it also includes a somewhat harrowing bit of torture and several brutally quick executions.
The acting is solid, although most of the characters are rather simplistic. Statham is in standard form, with his hair short and his stubble only slightly shorter (Terry must keep both carefully trimmed, as they never vary in length no matter how little sleep he’s gotten). Burrows is beautiful and untrustworthy, as a criminal dame should be. As porn king Lew Vogel, David Suchet puts in a turn as a thoroughly nasty piece of work who is made a bit sympathetic through his recurrent pained expressions — the poor fellow has a nasty kidney stone. Richard Lintern’s government agent is ominously slippery, which lends a nice touch of suspense to his character’s scenes.
The heist itself and the espionage after are a good roller-coaster ride, if you can overlook the uneven add-ons. The mixture of government conniving, gritty heist stuff, and a fairly convincing 70s look and feel is all good fun. It’s just a pity that the film doesn’t quite gel.